Sundeep Bhutoria

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The rails still tell (sent to DNA Afterhours, Jaipur)


July 28, 2012: It is about 4 pm and I am Jaipur bound on Jodhpur-Puri Express. The last time I was in this Jodhpur railway station in 1993 to attend my friend Babulal Jain's wedding in a village called Elana which is located about 170 km by road from Jodhpur in Jalore districtthe one time constituency of Buta Singh.
This is my first railride after 15 years. Since morning, I was thinking of cancelling my train ticket and avail an alternative means of transport. There's no flight from Jodhpur to Jaipur and a detour via Delhi takes almost nine hours with transit. It takes 6 hours by road and this train takes less.
Though a little shaky at first, I finally decided to travel from Jodhpur to Jaipur by train. I was the only one in AC First Class coupe meant for four persons. There were few people in the other coupes on the train when it started. As the train moved, I stared out of the windows into my past. As a boy I used to frequently travel from my grand father's house in Churu to my maternal grand father's house in Sujangarh via local train, covering a distance of 120 kilometers.
It used to be very crowded with few hundred people cramped into a bogey meant for 70 people. My co-passengers, at times, included goats and other four-legged beings. Counting trees from the moving train was a favourite pastime.
It seems the wheel of time moves very slowly for the great Indian Railways for nothing much has changed since my childhood days. Despite some of the modern trappings, the spirit remains the same. At the Jodhpur rail station I had noticed three metal detectors at the entrance. Not a single one was working and no one cared to pass through them.
But of course in the last few 15 years there have been some add-ons. I see there is a reading light but no bulb. There is a tissue holder in the toilet but no tissues. There is a dustbin which is fully to the brim from the point origin. There's a cupboard with hanger stand but no hangers to put your clothes on. The same typed chart pasted at the entrance of the bogie with the names and seats numbers of the passengers in most unfriendly print.
The toilet indicator light that tells us if it is in use always glowed red. There were very well uniformed dining room staff but the tea pots in which they served tea wasn't in a good condition and the tea barely hot.
There is an old saying - If you want to see the real India, you must travel by rail. It still holds good in 2012. There used to be thefts of bulbs and other things which still continues. The state of the railway trains is indicative of the state of the nation.
It is pointless blaming the government because until and unless we learn and consider public property as our own, things would never change for the better.
ess bee

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